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History of the GHTFA
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Touch football, while informally played earlier amongst friends, was spawned in Burlington in the late 1960’s. Thanks to the leadership of people like Frank Bolla, Barry Frieday, Al Breeze, Ray Delegarde, Rick Maffey, Marty Hemmingway, Rick Kay, Rick Little, & Dave Nelson, the Burlington Men’s Touch Football League (BMTFL) became a reality, and was a thriving league with as many as 16 teams throughout the 1970’s. Teams were scheduled to referee other games when they weren’t playing, and in the late 1970’s our relationship with the Lakeshore Football Officials was established. We have since had a very good, long term arrangement with them to referee all games in each of our leagues.
While providing players an outlet to play recreational touch football in the early years, it was also quite competitive, as up until 1979 the Burlington League Champion qualified directly for, and was the only team eligible to compete in the Canadian Touch Bowl Championships
Teams were scheduled to referee other games when they weren’t playing, and in the late 1970’s our relationship with the Lakeshore Football Officials (LFOA) was established. We had a very good, long term arrangement with them, and their delegates Peter Moore, Ron McVinnie, and Doug Richardson, to referee all games in each of our leagues. In 2007 the Southern Ontario Touch Football Officials Association (SOTFOA) was formed as the LFOA would then just do tackle football, and SOTFOA, would officiate touch football in the area. That said, there was a still shortage of officials available to work our games, and we formed the GHTFA Referees Association, running clinics to get players on teams certified, with all teams within the GHTFA mandated to do so. All teams are now scheduled to referee some games, while SOTFOA handles the remainder.
In 1980, with the growth of touch football rapidly increasing, the Golden Horseshoe Touch Football Association (GHTFA) was formed to replace the BMTFL, to allow a wider geographical base of players, with more teams, which enabled various divisions based on appropriate caliber to be formed. Additionally, it provided opportunities for women’s, and master’s (over 35) leagues to be formed and fall under the umbrella of the GHTFA. Having all adult leagues administrated by one association had it’s advantages in working with the City of Burlington for facility rentals, as our sheer size (32 mens teams , 10 womens, 8 Masters) made us one of the primary users of football fields in Burlington.
In the mid 1980’s we started a women’s league, where some years we had as many as 10 teams. We were fortunate to have the leadership of Alison Rogers, and Sue Sklepowicz for many years in helping develop the women’s league. Unfortunately, our women’s program fell off in numbers ultimately, and in 2005 the women’s league went independent, and is run currently with 4 teams.
The popularity of the sport found a demand for a league for over 35 year old players, and we formed a Masters League in the late 1980’s. Originally this was a competitive league with teams also playing for provincial & national championships. Since the late 1990’s we have run a recreational Masters League, where players register individually, and are drafted onto new teams each year. While we consistently had 8 teams for many years, numbers have gone down, and we now have 4 teams in this league. Starting in the 2010 season, it was decided that the minimum age to register for this league will now be 40 years old. Players that were between 35-40 and played in the league up to this year would remain eligible.
In the early 1980’s, the GHTFA executive met several times with the Burlington Minor Football Association (BMFA) to assist in the creation of a kids touch football league (ages 6 to 17) which is still a strong feeder program for the GHTFA today, although the BMFA moved from touch to flag football in 2004. Over the years numerous players from the GHTFA have acted as volunteer coaches with the BMFA, and we also conducted Coaching Clinics for them in the early developmental years of BMFA touch.
A very dedicated group of people have been responsible in making the GHTFA one of the premier touch associations in Canada. This list of key volunteers includes Pano Tournidis, Rick Little, Dave Nelson, Bill Fournier, Bill Potts, Terry Roberts, and Don Gerry. This group, along with many others, have also assisted in hosting numerous touch football tournaments and events over the years in Burlington. These include the annual Dave Nelson Early Bird Tournament (as renamed by Touch Football Ontario in 2008 after being the Labatts Early Bird Tournament for 30 years) which first was played in 1978 and is still a feature event to kick off the touch football season each year on the first weekend in May; the Cougar Shoes Tournament held in August (1979 – 1996); the Central Ontario Regional Championships (1980,81,82 & 83); the Ontario "Bud Bowl" Championships (1984, 85 & 86), and later renamed the Ontario "Trillium Cup" (1999 & 2001); and for international flavor, we have hosted the Australian National Touch Teams (men’s, women’s, master’s & mixed), and USA Men’s teams from Cleveland for the "Kangaroo Cup" (blended hybrid of Canadian Touch & Aussie Touch Rugby) in 1987, 1989 & 1991. Further, a contingent of GHTFA players (men & women) played on the Canadian National Teams which traveled to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia in 1988 for the inaugural "World Touch Championships" put on by the Federation of International Touch (F.I.T.), and a number of our players were on the National teams that toured Europe in 2002. Our GHTFA players have, and still are making their presence on numerous occasions @ the U.S.F.T.A. (United States Flag & Touch Association) championships, as well as tournaments they host across the USA.
All of these events have been extremely successful, and the GHTFA is proud to be a leader in hosting first class touch football tournaments, as well as supporting other events in Canada, and around the world.
Since our associations inception, we have always maintained membership with the provincial association, originally known as the Ontario Amateur Football Association, then Football Ontario (both of which also administered tackle football and officials), and now Touch Football Ontario (solely touch football & it’s officials). We pay membership fees to the provincial association, who in addition to co-ordinating touch football in the province, provide us with insurance coverage for all of our teams.
The future looks bright for touch football in Burlington with a strong base of kids playing in the BMFA, and there are a number of teams in the GHTFA which boast rosters with father and sons playing on the same team.
In 2010, our Association will field 28 teams, with approximately 560 players……8 teams in the A League, 8 in the B League, 8 in the C League, and 4 in Masters. In 2013, our association will field a smaller league with 22-24 teams, that includes an under 19 team from the Junior Canadian Tournament. All leagues will split into 2 divisions to create more parity. The GHTFA recognizes the growing age of players within our league and in touch football and will be introducing an over 50+ league. Masters league will be revised to 35+ and still will manage a 4 team league. Consideration is be given to a mixed league.